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Illinois dog tests positive for coronovirus infection


On Feb. 6, a team led by pathobiology professor Ying Fang, a virologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, diagnosed a pet dog in Chicago with infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. This is the first dog in Illinois to test positive for the coronavirus.

Veterinarians believe the source of infection was a SARS-CoV-2-infected pet-sitter who had cared for the dog at the time of infection while the dog’s owners were away.

The dog developed respiratory symptoms after exposure to the pet-sitter. When the dog failed to get better after a few weeks, the treating veterinarian, Dr. Drew Sullivan, the director of the Medical District Veterinary Clinic in Chicago, sent samples to the U. of I. laboratory for testing. This clinic is owned and operated by the U. of I. College of Veterinary Medicine.

After the team’s initial test, the sample was sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. This lab is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Iowa lab confirmed the test result.

Can infected dogs infect humans? Health officials have not seen a case of a dog infecting a human. In the case of this dog, even though it had respiratory symptoms for some time, its owners tested negative for COVID-19.

Other studies have found that domestic cats, tigers and lions are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. These findings cause great concern about the potential for human-to-animal and animal-to-human transmission, along with the virus mutations that appear as the virus goes back and forth between species.

Professor Fang's team has a goal to design and prepare better, faster ways of detecting and tracking coronavirus in animals. They also hope to develop a feline animal model that will offer insight into how the disease behaves in cats. Their data will be incorporated into models for understanding the risk of animal infection for veterinarians, other animal care professionals and the general public.


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